In the 2007-2008 school year, PSU proactively began to address the situation with Corrective Action 2 schools. Under No Child Left Behind, if a school fails to meet state standards on testing for 5 years or more, then they enter Corrective Action 2 status. Being under this status leaves a school open for being turned over to a private manager,turned into a charter school, or some other radical change.
As soon as we heard that 70 of our public schools were in Corrective Action 2, we demanded that community members and students have input into the process, which resulted in the creation of a district-sponsored task force. In order to fully participate in this task force, members did research into the performance data of EMO schools.
We found that EMO schools had not outperformed district run schools despite being paid 107 million in contract fees over 6 years. Additionally, we unearthed information on the Office of Restructured Schools (ORS) a district office that overlooked 21low-performing school and successfully brought 14 out of them out of Corrective action 2, but was mysteriously closed in 2005. This was a successful district reform model that we had found and so we began to promote it as a positive solution to Corrective Action II.
We also pushed for public meetings at each of the 70 CA2schools to make sure that communities were informed. Public meetings were held in winter and then again in spring; unfortunately the community was not given enough notice. We attempted to do outreach to as many CA2schools as possible, especially those in West Philadelphia in order to make them aware of the district’s process and to encourage them to advocate for themselves and put forward solutions.
Throughout the year we took it upon ourselves to educate communities about the issue of CA2, speaking to Home and School councils,parent and student organizations, and attending meetings at individual schools. We believe that each school needs a solution that is tailored to its specific needs. We conducted 3 public actions at the School District to call attention to both proven and failed reforms, demand transparency and accountability around district contracts and to call for holding all reform models to high standards.
As a result of our actions and increased scrutiny and public pressure, the SRC could no longer summarily renew all contracts with failing EMO’s as they had done a year before. We applaud them for returning 6 EMO schools to the district and putting another 20on probation.
We are pleased that the lowest performing schools are now the “Empowerment Schools” and will receive extra resources and support. We hope that the successful elements of the Office of Restructured Schools will be re-created within the Empowerment Schools model. We look forward to continuing our campaign to build the power of students, parents and communities in Corrective Action 2 to put forward the solutions that are best for them.